We are now at the second spot in our rankings. Splitting the players ranked 1 and 2 was challenging as both had successful seasons outside of Poland. While our number two player is not taking the top spot this season, I think it will be hard for him not to have it locked down next year.
Players had to be under the age of 23 and at least 16 years old on June 1st, 2022. We are only judging play that occurred before that date as well. Players are evaluated based on a combination of career history, current play, and potential. Skaters must have played at least five games to be considered. While most of the ranking is my opinion, numerous Polish hockey people contributed their thoughts on players. 169 players were considered for the list and reviewed. Eighty players received a ranking.
|Players 80-51||Players 30-21||Players 10-8||Player 3|
|Players 50-41||Players 20-16||Players 7-6|
|Players 40-31||Players 15-11||Players 5-4|
Rank – Player Name (Position), Age During Next Hockey Season, Team (Ranking in 2021, change in rankings)
2 – Kamil Wałęga (F), 22, HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas, (5, +3)
This offseason saw many Polish players take significant steps outside of Poland. Three players took a chance and trained together, working out for numerous teams in Czechia and Slovakia. Jan Soltys never made a club and returned to Poland. Dominik Pas made AZ Havířov in the Chance Liga but would return to Poland just before the end of the year. The third player was Kamil Wałęga who made HK 32 Liptovsky Mikulas in the top level of Slovak hockey, the Tipos Extraliga. He made the team and never returned to Poland. We won’t likely see him in the PHL soon either, as after the season ended, he signed a two-year extension with the Slovak club.
Wałęga was a player that I consistently had ranked decently high, but I did at times lose him in the shadow of some bigger JKH GKS Jastrzebie prospects like his two teammates he trained with during the offseason. In the end, Wałęga’s growth as a complete player has been undeniable, and he has proved to be a player that is going to be a critical member of teams outside of Poland.
In his rookie year in the Tipos Extraliga, he posted 18 points (11G-7A-18PTS) in 44 games. This put him tenth in all scoring among U23 players. He also led all 21-year-old skaters in points. Twelve of his points came at even strength, while he contributed six on the powerplay. He also fired off 111 shots, the sixth-most by a U23 player. He even took home player of the month honors from his club in December. Overall, a very impressive season on the boxscore for a young player transitioning to Slovakia from the PHL.
There were a few areas this season that I’m sure the club will hope to see some improvement from, but the club’s GM was always very complimentary of the young Pole, and they gave him a two-year extension. The first area is consistency. He started the year with just 6 points in 20 games, but after December hit, he would finish the regular season with 11 in 19 games. But he finished the year with just 1 goal in five games during relegation. The second part comes down to your school of thought on hockey and how much you value it, but Wałęga got a lot of reps at center and took over 300 faceoffs. His faceoff win percentage was a poor 41.1%. Only one player in the league that took at least 100 faceoffs had a worse win percentage. Both can be fixable and partly be blamed on that transition from PHL to Tipos Extraliga and an early minor injury.
He was a highlight for the national team as part of Kalaber’s youth movement. While he only played one game in the Olympic qualifiers after suffering an injury. He was Poland’s best player at the Baltic Challenge Cup, where he recorded 9 points (2G-7A-9PTS) in 3 games. He topped off his national team season with two goals and an assist in four games at the World Championships. He is another young player who instantly cemented himself as one of the top national team forwards at just 21 years old.
When we look at his production matches for his club season, 100% of his matches went on to play a couple of hundred games in the Tipos Extraliga or appear in a stronger league. It is not a one-hit-wonder b any means. 25% of his matches went on to play 50 games in a top European league like the KHL or a second-tier league like Czechia’s Tipsport Extraliga. Kamil Wałęga’s floor seems to be a middle-six forward in the Tipos Extraliga, which Poland needs. His ceiling could be similar to Aron Chmiewlski in Czechia. Either way, he is a lock to be an essential part of team Poland for a while.
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